Deconstructing a Genre With James Gunn: Why I'm Hopeful for Lollipop Chainsaw
Lollipop Chainsaw has drawn a lot of attention since it’s announcement long ago. Of course, any game where you play as a cheerleader who happily decapitates zombies with a gigantic pink chainsaw while eating lollipops would have this effect but the biggest thing that really drew attention to the title was the involvement of the legendary Suda51; which instantly told us a lot about what kind of game to expect. However, there is another name involved which told me even more about the game and made me excited for it on a different level. That name is James Gunn.
You might not be familiar with the name but I’m sure you’ll recognize some of his works, namely the movies Super, Slither and the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. Yeah…listening now? I thought so.
Lets get the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake out of the way immediately as it’s both perhaps the most well known of his works and the one most likely to be compared to Lollipop Chainsaw for obvious reasons. While the movie itself bears Gunn’s name as the solo writing credit, he was only partially involved with the screenplay before leaving to work on the second Scooby Doo movie, having written the first one as well.
His work was not abandoned and instead it was expanded upon with much of the film’s core being Gunn’s writing. Considering this is also one of the most ‘serious’ movies he has worked on this serves an an interesting juxtaposition to his later projects and their relationship to Lollipop Chainsaw.
Slither, a film that was one part alien invasion and another part zombie movie with a big heap of fun thrown into the mix, was James Gunn’s directorial debut and although the film wasn’t exactly a commercial success it quickly achieved cult icon status in the horror world. Taking inspiration from many classic B horror movies to create something that was both a charming original take on the genre as well as a self-parody in the best possible way. The premise goes as follows: after an alien life form lands it takes control of a man and impregnates a woman who gives “birth” to thousands of horrible slug monsters which kill people by entering forcefully through their mouth and taking over the body.
The film is a strong middle ground when looking at James Gunn’s movie work in comparison to what we can expect from Lollipop Chainsaw as while the story is about as serious as something like this can be it’s very tongue-in-cheek throughout and openly embraces the sillier side of these kind of movies.
While both of these movies serve as a good introduction of what we can expect it’s Gunn’s latest work that will perhaps be the most well known to the target audience of the upcoming game as well as the best example of what we can look forward to.
Super came out of nowhere in 2010 and the buzz around the movie grew stronger with each passing clip because this is a film that, wore what it was very proudly on its sleeves, for all to see. In case you’re not familiar, Super is a deconstruction of the superhero movie in a slightly realistic light and set up as a black comedy. Often compared to Kick-Ass (though both were worked on simultaneously) Super takes a good hard look at the superhero origin story and how it would work in the real world. Rainn Wilson puts on an incredible performance as Frank D’Arbo / The Crimson Bolt with Ellen Page playing against her normal type as the hyper-sexualized and over enthusiastic fangirl Libby who later becomes his sidekick: Boltie.
Superhero comics and movies are often ridiculed when looked at in a realistic light because anybody attempting to do any of that stuff is going to have a hard time dealing with certain aspects of real life such as bullets or the fact that wearing half of a mask doesn’t exactly hide who you are very well.
Super is a very interesting movie no matter which way you look at it. As a standard superhero tale it’s not too far off from what you would see in any other story featuring a character that decides the best solution to their problem is to put on a garish costume and fight bad guys. As a deconstruction it’s an interesting look at how ridiculous this entire concept really is yet how incredibly effective it can still be given the right circumstances.
Perhaps most interesting of all however is when you look at the real life consequences of deciding to do something like this. Frank starts out having no idea what he’s doing and his weapon of choice is a wrench which he elegantly uses by bashing people in the face if they get in his way. The best part though is that both Frank and Libby are absolutely insane, the latter much moreso than the former.
Of course, just like Slither, the film is both a loving deconstruction of a particular genre with a touch of parody thrown in that ends up feeling like a love letter to the movies that inspired it. Lets face facts guys, superheroes and zombies are ridiculous and anything involving them is going to be absurd on some level. The best way to deal with this is to embrace it and go full force.
All of these movies are excellent works in their own right and although none of the stuff with his direct involvement has been a smashing commercial success either in sales or ratings they both did more things right than they did wrong and provide an interesting look at the genres they represent. More importantly they’re all an enjoyable experience and while they’re not for everybody, fans of the movies that inspired them will find something to love within.
The premise of a video game is often incredibly silly no matter what kind of game it sets out to be. This is part of the reason why video game films don’t work so well, as what works for an action game isn’t necessarily what works on the big screen or in real life. But if you take that and fully embrace it — and are aware of just how inherently ridiculous what you’re setting out to do is — then you have the potential for something incredible.
To be blunt, I don’t expect Lollipop Chainsaw to change the way we look at zombies or video games and it’s certainly not going to cause any deep introspective thoughts after the credits roll. But I am hoping that the game can deliver on what I’m expecting: a fun action game where I get to decapitate zombies while playing as a cheerleader.
The concept is about as silly as things can get and from what we’ve seen the rest of the game should be more of what we’ve come to expect from all parties involved.